Where will 'Forever Sports' fit on the sporting shelf. Photo: brewbooks

‘Forever Sports’: New Contender or Beginning of the End?

So, I’m going to be honest with you- I’m not a huge fan of change. I have a regular reading list which I stick to religiously; this consists of Top Gear, the BBC’s specialist motoring magazine, and FourFourTwo, Haymarket’s best-selling football magazine… oh, and my course reading too! In August, however, I saw an advert for a new Haymarket production, ‘Forever Sports’, and decided that a change might be a good thing for once. Sit back and get your popcorn out, everyone, I’m having a go at reviewing!

‘Forever Sports’ was first released in March 2013 by Haymarket network in collaboration with Sports Direct. The first issue to be released featured Floyd Mayweather, the wealthiest athlete in the world according to the Forbes list. The issue I picked up was for September 2014 and was covered by Mario Balotelli (unfortunately without any go-faster stripes on his head!). Describing itself as a “fitness, style and sport magazine”, I’m starting to think to myself “this is definitely something new for me”!

I read the September 2014 & October 2014 editions, which featured pieces on Mario Balotelli and Rory McIlroy. From first impressions (as in the cover), you imagine an in-depth interview which delves into the sporting techniques of these two stars. However, further reading shows that these are accounts of the sportsmen by journalists who have spent time following them. I’m not saying these are not good accounts- it’s just you won’t find anything new here. Compare this to FourFourTwo’s interview with Balotelli which really got into the mind of the Italian- no accounts, just answers!

Perhaps this is due to the magazine progressively building up its reputation- the interviews will come at a later stage. Rising stars such as Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley and Paige ’12 Gauge’ VanZant of the UFC offer great insights into the sport. The regular pieces in ‘Forever Sports’ are very interesting. The First XI offers a huge variety of sporting news/ curious incidents from across the world whilst the ‘Technique’ section gives coaching tips from the professionals.

For me, ‘Forever Sports’ could be seen as a bridge between the specialist sports magazines and ‘Men’s Health’. ‘Forever Sports’ does not encourage you to “nerd out” at the pub when your mate has a go at the latest Premier League football to miss a penalty. It doesn’t even encourage you to buy 160 protein shakes and just work your upper body at the gym whilst wearing vests which are slowly stretched by beer guts. A rounded magazine for men’s sport, style and fashion- something for everyone. As they say on the cover, ‘Men! It’s safe to buy magazines again’

Describing itself as a “fitness, style and sport magazine”, I’m starting to think to myself “this is definitely something new for me”!

It’s all very well saying this though but during this I had a bit of an epiphany…what if this isn’t a connecting bridge but a drawbridge slowly shutting the specialist sporting magazine off?

Six years ago, the Guardian reported on the increase in competition in the football magazine market as BBC reignited the Match of the Day magazine to compete with FourFourTwo. Now, an article released in August makes for grim reading…

This article, published by PressGazette in August, showed the sales figures for 2014 and 2013 of the major UK magazines. Last year, FourFourTwo had 73,042 magazines in circulation. This year, it grew to 79,700 magazines. This would suggest a contrary consequence to the argument I have put forward but I would imagine a large proportion of this is down to the World Cup push this year. Another sports specialist magazine, ‘Golf Monthly’, saw a drastic drop in circulation over the last year from 54,137 magazines to 48,212 magazines. Other sports specialists did not even make the chart- enough of a malum auspicium for me!

Compare this to the fitness magazines. ‘Men’s Health’ rose from 203,741 magazines in 2013 to 207,259 magazines in circulation in 2014- a slow increase but a constant one. It’s a similar story with ‘Women’s Health’. These magazines do not specialise but give the readers what they need to know to be in the healthiest position possible- whether it’s gym-work or fashion, they have it.

Our rooms are no longer clattered with towers of magazine editions as everything is in the palms of our hands.

So far this year, ‘Forever Sport’ has had 62,277 magazines in circulation, which is already clipping the ankles of FourFourTwo. By adding sport to this combination for ultimate man/ woman magazines, could this even be a final gasp for sports magazines?

There is a huge factor which plays in this: the Internet. As the number of magazines in circulation has dropped, the number of online membership has started to grow. FourFourTwo and Golf Monthly now have 3,176 and 2,141 digital magazines in circulation respectively. Our rooms are no longer clattered with towers of magazine editions as everything is in the palms of our hands. People do not wish to spend money on a thick sports specialist magazine when they could carry the snippets on a tablet.

This raises another question. Picture this: you’re on the Tube and you are cramped next to a man whose BMI goes off the scale and a family of six, uncontrollable children. Can you cope now with reading an in-depth analysis on the rate of Messi’s shot-to-goal ratio? I didn’t think so. We want to read instant news that is interesting and over in 30 seconds. ‘Men’s Health’, ‘Women’s Health’ and, from what I’ve read so far, ‘Forever Sport’ provide this. Like I said before, they don’t require you to listen deeply as your mate ‘nerds out’ at the pub, but make you react to a little snippet of curiosity.

So there we have it. I’m still being honest here- I have enjoyed my first review but it has really opened my eyes to how fast sports journalism moves on. There is no time for chunky works of sport scholarship but little gems for £2 or even on a screen are clinchers. The days of those thick sports magazines building up in your attic could be numbered.

You will have to excuse me now as I am late for my meeting with the ‘FourFourTwo Appreciation Society’ as we drink herbal tea and reminisce over the days of bookmarks you could physically hold.


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